President Bush secretly gave his approval for unilateral US ground assaults on Pakistani soil without prior Pakistani government approval, the New York Times reported today. The revelation comes just one day after Admiral Mullen’s testimony to Congress indicated he was looking at a “comprehensive strategy” for the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff General Kayani announced yesterday that foreign forces would no longer be allowed to operate within Pakistan. Elaborating on that prior announcement, Major General Athar Abbas said this evening that the army had been ordered to retaliate against any foreign troops operating inside the country. Pakistan’s government appeared today to stand behind the position of its military’s commander, with both Prime Minister Raza Gilani and the Pakistani Senate’s Standing Committee on Human Rights welcoming the statement.
US attacks inside Pakistan have become an increasingly important issue in the country in the wake of last week’s South Waziristan incident. Early in the morning on September 3, US helicopters and ground troops attacked a village in the Pakistani border agency, killing a reported 20 civilians. While US airstrikes against Pakistan’s border region are not uncommon, the use of US ground troops inside of Pakistani territory was unprecedented.
But as tensions with Pakistan grow with the dispute Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who has also expressed displeasure with the number of civilians being killed in his country by US airstrikes, embraced the shift in US strategy toward Pakistan as “essential”. President Karzai has been long critical of Pakistan’s inability to control its long, mountainous border and in June threatened to send his own troops into Pakistan to fight militants.
The threat of foreign incursions is a serious one for the fledgling government of President Asif Ali Zardari, who desperately needs the support of tribal area MPs to keep his narrow majority together. Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani claimed to have received some assurances that the US would not launch any further attacks into Pakistan, though this obviously contradicts everything else we’re hearing about the situation. Tribesman in South Waziristan Agency also met with Provincial Governor Ghani today and threatened to scrap
a long-standing peace deal with the government if they were unable to stop the US strikes.